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Just Blow the Right Whistle

INSIDERS ARE ROUTINELY ALLOWED TO REVEAL GOVERNMENT SECRETS, BUT ONLY IF THEY BOLSTER THE BIG LIE.
by Robert Scheer

Americans love to be lied to; otherwise Edward Snowden would be a wildly popular national hero. Same for Bradley Manning, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange and others who risk their freedom to inform us about the myriad ways we are continually deceived by our government. These whistleblowers are performing a public service. They’re democracy’s lifeblood, nourishing the essential ingredient that our proclaimed form of governance re – quires: an informed public. If we are ignorant, our votes mean nothing.

In exposing lies and government misdeeds, the whistleblowers revealed that our leaders are not always virtuous. Snowden has been accused of espionage because he exposed the vast spying network that our own government conducts against us. How can it be that a truth teller who seeks to protect our rights is judged the criminal, not the government officials who brazenly subvert the Constitution?

Our government lies to us frequently and conceals that fact by classifying as “top secret” any and all embarrassing information. However, those so-called secrets are routinely leaked to the news media whenever it serves the purpose of the White House, an agency or one of its officials. Anonymous sourcing of stories attrib – uting information to those not cleared to reveal what they are telling is the norm. During my years working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, anonymous sources babbled about the most sensitive subjects of national security or anything else they wanted publicized.

An example I cite often was a personal experience in 1985. After exiting a plane in San Jose, California, I ran into Edward Teller, the famed physicist and “father of the H-bomb,” whom I had interviewed several times. Teller was then adviser to President Reagan on his pet Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), dubbed “Star Wars,” and I was on my way to Stanford Univer – sity to participate in an arms-control seminar.

Teller was very eager to tell me about the great results of a top-secret test—code-named Cottage—involving the nuclear-driven X-ray laser that was at the heart of SDI. If Teller’s claim were true, this would be the most important development in the U.S.-Soviet arms race and a boon to Reagan’s preposterous idea of implementing a defense system that would zap any incoming nuclear warhead as it traveled through space.

I am sure that Teller intended for me to share this information with others at the Stanford seminar, some of whom, like myself, did not have security clearance. And he probably expected that as a journalist covering armscontrol issues, I would break this major story in the Los Angeles Times, and from there it would be reported nationwide and around the world.

If Teller had been correct—a nuclearweapons lab had indeed masterminded an X-ray laser—it was our country’s most vital military secret and therefore the one piece of information that the Soviets would most want to secure. It turned out that Teller’s report of Cot tage’s success was erroneous, the machines monitoring the multimillion-dollar test had proved faulty, and the hunt for the X-ray laser was going nowhere.

My point is that it was information Teller and others bandied about to back up the argu – ment for a weapons system that the militaryindustrial complex wanted. Because the leak supported rather than undermined the Reagan Adminis tration’s hawkish position, Teller wasn’t punished for his indiscretion. Whistleblowers like Snowden are only branded as criminals when the information they disclose sabotages rather than supports the Pentagon’s warmongers.

Edward Snowden could have sat in a Honolulu bar with any reporter who cared to hear him chat endlessly about how he just loved his job nailing the bad guys. He could have revealed information about the success of our antiterrorism surveillance program and never been the subject of an investigation. He is instead a hunted enemy because he told us that the United States government was screwing rather than protecting us. In other words, just leak the good news, and you’ll be an honored public servant.

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